During the renovation of the German Watch Museum Glashütte, workers discovered 13 original marine chronometers that had been hidden away. It was an astonishing find. Today, each has been carefully restored and paired with a Glashütte Original Senator Chronometer Platinum to create a very few historically significant sets that will be available to the public.
Marine chronometers hold a special place in the hearts of many collectors. They combine aesthetic beauty, the finest craftsmanship, the ultimate in precision, and the art, history and romance of navigation at sea. It has been said that access to marine chronometers enabled the ascendancy of the British Royal Navy, and with it, the growth of the British empire, making marine chronometers perhaps the most historically significant mechanical timekeepers ever created.
From the mid-1800s to the mid-1900s, some 13,000 marine chronometers were manufactured in Glashütte. Those discovered in the Watch Museum are late-production models. As we’ll see below, each has been carefully restored and finished.
Outside, the chronometer housing has been carefully polished and given a new rhodium finish, as have the fittings and screws. Glashütte Original’s restoration experts built new gimbal mountings for each of the chronometers, and skilled artisans crafted thirteen wooden cases in matte black oak.
Inside, all plates, bridges, screws and pillars have been finely ground, polished and finished with hard gilding. The balance rim, weights and adjustment screws have also been carefully re-worked and polished. The dial has been restored too: the frosted silver plating has been refurbished in such a way as to retain the original milled, black inlay numerals and indexes. New fonts and the numbering of each unit complete the unique style of this distinctive nautical timepiece.
In short, each piece has not only been reborn, but each is almost certainly in finer condition than when it was originally created.
The second member of this historically significant set is a platinum edition of the Senator Chronometer, winner of multiple “Watch of the Year” awards in 2010. The “family relationship” between the marine and Senator chronometers is no coincidence. For example, the Senator’s elegant Chemin de fer minute ring intentionally evokes the classic look of Glashütte marine chronometers.
True to the “precision timekeeping” theme, the Senator Chronometer is the first Glashütte Original timepiece to receive official chronometer certification. Unlike the Swiss COSC which tests uncased movements, the German DIN 8319 standard provides for testing fully assembled watches.
The Senator Chronometer’s notable technical features include an innovative stop-seconds reset mechanism that makes it much easier to synchronize the minute and second hands when setting the time. The panorama date display jumps ahead precisely at midnight, and a day/night indicator simplifies setting the time in relation to the date change: from 6:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. the small circle located between the power reserve indicator and the center of the dial is white, and from 6:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m. it is black. Of course the Senator’s movement incorporates traditional Glashütte three-quarter plate, screw-mounted gold chatons, and hand-engraved balance cock.
In creating the Senator’s dial, Glashütte Original opted to employ a vintage tradition: a technique known as l’argenture grainée, a frosted silver plating. The first step consists of machine-blasting the dial’s surface with a mixture of water, chalk, and wood. Then a paste containing silver powder and water is applied by hand to the blasted surface. The result is a charmingly traditional dial that attracts the observer’s eye with its refined surface structure.
Beyond aesthetics, the two mechanical chronometers in this set are linked by a shared tradition of high-precision watchmaking in Glashütte.
The U.S. retail price for the set is $115,000. Only 13 sets are available worldwide. The one set that will come to the U.S. will soon arrive at the Tourbillon Boutique in California’s South Coast Plaza.